Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes poking California to promote his own state as a business-friendly destination. His latest stunt was cruising past the state Capitol in a Tesla Model S to encourage the electric car maker to build a battery factory in the Lone Star State.
Perry neglected to mention that, regardless of where those batteries are manufactured, you can't buy a Tesla in his state.
Tesla sells its own cars, which is prohibited in Texas by laws crafted to protect franchise car dealers from competition.
Still, as political theater, Perry's visit to Sacramento earlier this month was successful, garnering a few headlines and some TV time for one of several states, California included, competing for the factory.
However, it overshadowed a more substantive development involving the Palo Alto-based automaker and its outside-the-box approach. To pave the path for electric vehicles, Tesla announced that will freely share its technology. In other words, Tesla is giving away its corporate secrets.
"Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport," CEO Elon Musk said in a statement issued June 12. "If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property land mines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal."
Thus, Musk said, Tesla won't file patent lawsuits "against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology."
It sometimes seems as if Silicon Valley companies spend as much time litigating patents as innovating. But Musk is taking the long view — something all too often lacking in corporate America.
His company expects to produce and deliver about 35,000 cars this year — out of about 100 million new vehicles worldwide. That isn't even a rounding error. To fulfill his vision of a greener planet, Musk needs other manufacturers to shift their focus from gasoline-powered cars to electric cars.
Sharing his company's technology is one way to entice them. Indeed, within days of his announcement, BMW and Nissan expressed interest in collaborating on charging technology, according to news accounts.
Advances in technology that make electric cars less expensive and more reliable are likely to lead to more companies making them. And that, Musk understands, means more companies marketing electric cars, and, ultimately, more people buying them.
When that happens, Texas and its franchise dealer rules may be an afterthought.